Transport for London could dissipate its goodwill

Transport for London has quite a good record. There have been significant improvements in London’s transport, and TfL can take credit for some of them. We have the new Routemaster buses with the open back that you can hop off in a traffic jam, or hop on or off at traffic lights. There are the new wide tube train carriages that allow you to talk from one carriage into another in search of a seat. We are soon to have all-night tube services on some lines.

The new traffic lights that tell pedestrians how long they have to cross are a good innovation, as is the reconfiguration of some congested crossings that were previously more dangerous to pedestrians. TfL took part in some of the consultations that led to these and other improvements.

The leaked proposals under consideration on Uber could dissipate all of the goodwill TfL has earned, however. There is no conceivable benefit to Londoners in having to wait 5 minutes before a car can pick them up, or in preventing them from seeing which cars are nearby. This is typical corrupt rent-seeking, trying to hobble competition through political lobbying in order to protect incumbents and keep up prices.

Uber has provided Londoners with a service that is more flexible, more convenient and less costly. An estimated 1.2m users have taken to it. They do so because it is of value to them. Black cabs provide a good service, too. Most cabbies are cheerful and helpful, and they know the shortcuts. There is room in London for both types of service. The way to benefit most Londoners would be to ease the regulations and costs of the black cabs, rather than to legislate away the benefits that Uber brings.

The black cab drivers’ association and those representing licensed minicabs boast openly that they were behind the now-public consultation proposals, and influenced TfL to take them on board. TfL should now ditch those proposals as ones bringing no benefit and great disadvantages to Londoners. Unless they do so, they will rapidly lose all of the goodwill gained by their other, more sensible, innovations.


The best part of Britain’s health care

This is a slightly strange thing for the Guardian to be trumpeting:

The UK is the best place in the world in which to die, according to a study comparing end-of-life care in 80 countries.

The integration of palliative care into the NHS, a strong hospice movement largely funded by the charitable sector, specialised staff and deep community engagement are among the reasons cited by the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU).

Not that most of us tend to like thinking about it but yes, death is an inevitable part of any health care system. And here we’ve got an analysis of the one part of health care where Britain really is the world leader. Which is very interesting, of course it is, to know that we are still, at times, world beaters.

But what’s even more interesting is that this one world beating part of the overall health care service is the one part of it not run by the NHS and not financed through taxation: that hospice movement. Which is rather food for thought about how we might look to organise, run and finance other parts of that health care system, isn’t it?

Perhaps, even, the original decision to amalgamate all of the private, charitable, municipal health care systems into that tax funded NHS wasn’t the quite the right thing to have done even?

Yes of course Donald Trump is wrong about Nafta

More interesting is why Trump is wrong about Nafta:

Recently, Donald Trump made a strong claim about the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) in an interview on CBS 60 Minutes:

“It’s a disaster. … We will either renegotiate it, or we will break it. Because, you know, every agreement has an end. … Every agreement has to be fair. Every agreement has a defraud clause. We’re being defrauded by all these countries.”

And we have an, admittedly incomplete as yet, theory for why we think businessmen are often quite as bad as they are at economics. We would expect them, given that they are usually playing in the private sector, to be rather better than they are at how private markets work. And certainly someone in Trump’s industry should understand public choice arguments.

But our theory is that so much of what a business actually does is trying to beat economics that the knowledge of the underlying theory rather gets missed. Just as one example, every business is trying to gain market power, the ability to set prices. From the economic theory point of view this is a very bad idea: and it’s the competition that markets provide that stops every business from gaining that market power.

And something similar happens with trade: when running a business you are obviously going to try to reduce your inputs. Of anything: one of the ways to succeed is to minimise inputs. And yet when we talk about the whole economy, about trade, the aim and point of the entire exercise is to maximise those imports, those inputs. That’s why we’re doing it, to gain the maximal amount possible of the resources and labour of foreigners that our people get to consume.

So, much of the time, running a business is trying to beat economics. Thus a businessman can often have a distorted idea of what desirable economic policy is.

There are those who will make the leap from this claim to the one that therefore we must regulate businesses because they are “anti-economic”. To which we would respond yes, of course , we must do so. And we do do so, we insist on competitive markets which is exactly the correct antidote to such attempted behaviour.

EU Inners and Outers

The City Corporation hosted a gathering at the Guildhall last Thursday to discuss, from a financial services perspective, what the Prime Minister should be seeking in his EU negotiations and the consequences of Brexit, should that come about.  The eight invited speakers were supposed to be balanced between those leaning towards staying, the Inners, and those leaning towards leaving, the Outers.  Given the funding, it was no surprise that the majority were Inners.  Indeed, according to Mark Boleat, Chairman of the Corporation’s Policy and Resources Committee, who introduced the conference, the status quo is well-nigh perfect so far as the City is concerned.  Apparently, the Brussels regulators now follow the City’s advice like lambs following their shepherd. Perhaps the single market for financial services could be hastened a little but the important thing, we were told, was to remain within it.  Dr. Pangloss would have been proud.

Interestingly, the few words of dissent from the Outers produced more applause than anything from the Inners.  But this was shadow boxing. There was little attempt to answer the questions: just the ritual “leaving is too risky” and “Europe will drag the UK down in global terms” arguments from the two sides.  The only speaker to land a punch was David Campbell Bannerman, ex-UKIP and now Tory MEP, speaking from the floor and dismissing one speaker’s contribution as undiluted self interest.

In essence, the big companies and organisations, City Corporation, CBI, unions, Whitehall, are mostly Inners whereas SMEs, including those in the City, and their representatives, IoD, Chambers of Commerce, are mostly Outers.  Some portray that as the old guard versus the future.

There is a vague wish that the UK government can protect the City in the way the French protect the Common Agricultural Policy but no one suggested how that could be done.

The most substantial issue proved to be the Euro.  The double majority rule that protects the non-Eurozone countries from being out-voted by the Eurozone ceases to apply once the current seven of the former shrink to three.  Furthermore, the other EU members have made it clear that they dislike the principle and even Lord Hill, the UK Commissioner, would not support it being extended to non-financial matters.  Since, when the current troubles subside, it is a racing certainty most of the current outsiders will join the Eurozone, the UK can look forward to being out-voted on almost everything and losing out, as we now do, in the EU Court of Justice.

So the bottom line, whatever the outcome of the referendum, seems to be that the UK must, in the longer term, accept the Euro or leave the EU.  A stark choice.

There is greater joy in heaven over one sinner that repenteth etc…..

Someone seems to have got the message:

Bono illustrated the shift in thinking that has taken place in his remarks.

“I’m late to realizing that it’s you guys, it’s the private sector, it’s commerce that’s going to take the majority of people out of extreme poverty and, as an activist, I almost found that hard to say,” he said.

As Madsen Pirie of this parish is wont to say, the way to reduce poverty is by buying things made by poor people in poor countries.

But there is more to this than just our being correct and Bono now becoming correct. For the UN and the global illuminati are currently congratulating themselves on having met the Millennium Development Goal of halving absolute poverty. And are now designing the next set of goals in order to abolish it in its entirety. Yet absolutely none of the meeting of that MDG came from anything that the UN of those illuminati did. And not even from the eyewatering overseas aid target of 0.7% of GDP, a target which the UK is almost alone in actually meeting. And there’s a problem with this.

That problem being that while abolishing absolute poverty is absolutely the thing to be trying to do, none of the mechanisms being suggested by the UN/illuminati to reach that goal actually have anything to do with how we reached the previous one. They’re muttering about inclusive development and reducing inequality. When what is needed is yet more globalisation and trade. Or, in simpler terms, just buy the damn stuff made by poor people in poor countries.

We think (and hope) that the true abolition of absolute poverty will happen. But it will be in spite of, not because of, these lovely plans that are being drawn up. Because none of those plans actually ask people to do what we do know actually works: please people, go shopping!